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Strongman Competitors Maxime Boudreault and Samantha Belliveau Talk Recovery, Training, and AIRWAAV

2022 Canada's Strongest Man and 2021 Canada's Strongest Woman talk training, recovery, and AIRWAAV

Training to compete at the elite level of strongman is no easy task. The training regimen is heavy and frequent, the requisite diet is densely caloric, and the recovery of the nervous system is significant.

The 2022 Canada’s Strongest Man (CSM) champion Maxime Boudreault and 2021 Canada’s Strongest Woman (CSW) champion Samantha Belliveau have consistently competed at the top of the sport for years. The former is a mainstay on the Giant’s Live contest circuit, including the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest. And Belliveau has broken through as one of the premier athletes in the world as the sport of strongwoman continues to propel its global popularity.

One tool that helps them maximize their performance in the gym is the AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece. BarBend spoke to Belliveau and Boudreault about the benefits they have found from using AIRWAAV, including how it improves their breathing, increases their power, lowers anxiety during big lifts, and more.

AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece
AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece
AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece

The Official Mouthpiece of the 2023 World Strongest Man, this performance mouthpiece is custom-built to fit an athlete's mouth and enables better breathing via controlled tongue placement. It is ideal for competitive athletes looking to improve their performance and speed up their recovery.

How Canada’s Strongest Trains

A typical week of training for Boudreault and Belliveau varies depending on the competition they are training for. Boudreault is injured with a broken shin, which compelled his withdrawal from the 2023 WSM contest. Belliveau is amidst her training for the 2023 Shaw Classic Open online qualifier.

Belliveau’s current weekly training program includes a squat-focused leg day, two pull days with added deadlift sessions, and strongman event training (e.g., loading races, carries, stone lifts). The squat and deadlift are two of the most common exercises among strongman athletes. (1) Additionally, Belliveau performs daily cardio, ab training, and stretching.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strongman training “represents an equivalent physiological stimulus on key parameters indicative of potential training-induced adaptive responses” as traditional resistance training. (2) So how do Belliveau and Boudreault get their edge over the competition?

AIRWAAV’s Impact on Performance

Belliveau has used custom mouthpieces before, but unlike AIRWAAV, she felt they were bulky. “[With AIRWAAV], there’s absolutely no restriction when it comes to breathing,” she says.

A lack of restricted breathing offers Belliveau an immediate effect on her power. The log press, which involves a hefty wooden log to be cleaned before being pressed overhead, has previously been one of Belliveau’s most challenging events.

Breathing with the burden of a giant heavy implement on one’s chest while in the front rack position is challenging. However, AIRWAAV, she says, allows Belliveau to breathe more optimally in that position, improving her output in the event.

Boudreault was initially skeptical about AIRWAAV as he had not found success with other mouthpieces previously. He found other mouthpieces to be clunky and uncomfortable in his mouth. He mentioned on the BarBend Podcast that AIRWAAV was different — it’s smaller, and the custom fit prevents it from moving around or falling out of his mouth during training.

“We deadlifted that same weight that we did a week before with more ease just because we put [AIRWAAV] on.”

Mouthpiece breathing has been shown to improve “tidal volume and respiratory cycle time by up to 63 and 33 percent, respectively,” according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Those improvements have seemingly helped Belliveau better manage her anxiety during heavier deadlifts. (3)

“I’ve always been one to get caught up in my head before a big lift,” she says. “The AIRWAAV mouthpiece seems to help me stay calm and focus on the task.”

While not necessarily directly linked, that improvement in mindset when approaching a lift could lead to performing that lift better. After all, the direct use of a mouthpiece is not unknown — “research has suggested mouthpiece use during exercise results in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.” (4)

Belliveau and Boudreault aren’t the only elite athletes in the sport who consider AIRWAAV crucial to their training. 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic champion and 2023 World’s Strongest Man Mitchell Hooper calls the AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece “the future of strength sports.”

Adjusting to AIRWAAV

Fortunately, there’s barely any adjustment needed to use AIRWAAV. Belliveau was initially concerned with adapting to an additional piece of equipment while training, but “once molded right, it literally feels like it’s part of your armor.”

Hooper said that after microwaving his AIRWAAV, it molded well enough to where he could talk normally without issue and knew it wouldn’t fall out of his mouth during loading events, moving events, or even the Wheel of Pain.

I use AIRWAAV for everything.

Not only was AIRWAAV easy to get accustomed to, as not much adjustment was needed, but Hooper also stated with “100 percent certainty” that his overhead press stability, deadlift, and stone lifting have improved with the performance mouthpiece.

AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece
AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece
AIRWAAV™ Performance Mouthpiece

The Official Mouthpiece of the 2023 World Strongest Man, this performance mouthpiece is custom-built to fit an athlete's mouth and enables better breathing via controlled tongue placement. It is ideal for competitive athletes looking to improve their performance and speed up their recovery.

References

  1. Winwood, P. W., Keogh, J. W., & Harris, N. K. (2011). The strength and conditioning practices of strongman competitors. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 25(11), 3118–3128. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e318212daea
  2. Harris, N. K., Woulfe, C. J., Wood, M. R., Dulson, D. K., Gluchowski, A. K., & Keogh, J. B. (2016). Acute Physiological Responses to Strongman Training Compared to Traditional Strength Training. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 30(5), 1397–1408. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001217
  3. Bloch, K. E., Barandun, J., & Sackner, M. A. (1995). Effect of mouthpiece breathing on cardiorespiratory response to intense exercise. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 151(4), 1087–1092. https://doi.org/10.1164/ajrccm/151.4.1087
  4. Garner, D. P., Dudgeon, W. D., & McDivitt, E. J. (2011). The effects of mouthpiece use on cortisol levels during an intense bout of resistance exercise. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 25(10), 2866–2871. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820ae849